The tropical Indonesian island is a surfer’s paradise and one of the most visited destinations in the world. The diverse landscape and agreeable climate make it perfect for a few weeks of summer vacation. But what if you’re holiday never had to end?
You’re probably here wondering if foreigners can live in Bali as long-term residents and where on earth to start with the relocation process? Making a big move overseas is all about preparation, so we’re here to help.
From visas and living costs to business investment opportunities, this guide runs through everything you need to know about how to live in Bali permanently. Find out below if you really can make your dream vacation a permanent reality. Let’s get into it.
The legalities are the first and most important aspect to navigate when uprooting and leaving your hometown for foreign lands. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, crossing continents wasn’t just as easy as booking a flight and bringing your passport along.
To enter Bali for any amount of time, you need a visa. You need to obtain at least a 30-day tourist visa permitting your entry as a foreign citizen, even for a two-week holiday. These used to be issued to most international arrivals, depending on your country of residence, on entry to Bali through Denpasar airport. But since Covid-19 changed the field of world travel for good, things aren’t quite so straightforward.
Visa On Arrival
Before March 2020, if your country of residence was on the approved list, all international visitors to Bali were eligible for a Visa On Arrival (VoA), which you could purchase at the airport for $40. Once in Bali, this can be extended to give you 60 days on the beautiful island.
Still, unless you want to leave Bali every two months to claim your new tourist visa, this is called a “visa run” and is frowned upon by authorities, VoA is not a permanent visa solution. This service is also currently unavailable since Bali’s government banned international tourism under Covid-19 regulations.
Business Visa B-211A and Social and Cultural Visa B-211
Popular choices for digital nomads, these visas are mainly similar and allow you to stay in Bali for up to 180 days. Neither visa permits you to work in Indonesia, but business visas will temporarily enable you to engage in business activities, negotiate contracts, and consult with business associates.
This makes them great for investigating investment opportunities, attending conferences, and property hunting. At the same time, social visas can be used for visiting family or friends or for cultural exchanges. Both visas require a sponsorship letter, which visas agencies can provide for you within Bali law.
You’ll need 12 months on your passport, and you can apply at an embassy outside Indonesia or online for an E-visa, which is a decidedly easier option. Both visas initially cost around $200 for the first 60 days and can be extended four times, with each extension costing $50. However, you cannot leave Bali and re-enter on the same visa. Once you leave Indonesia, any remaining time on your visa will be canceled.
Working and Retirement KITAS
If you want to earn an income from an Indonesian company or stay in Bali for the long term with multiple entry options, then a KITAS is the way to go. This permit can be hard to obtain, and the application process is lengthy.
Still, a KITAS is the best option for permanent residence as a foreigner, even if you don’t plan to work in Bali, as it gives ex-pats the most freedom to leave and return and access Indonesian services. The first year costs $1,200, and it can be extended up to five years at the cost of $100 per month before you need to apply for a new one.
If you want to retire in Bali, there is also a cheaper KITAS available for those over 55 years old, which you can also extend up to five years. To be eligible, you must receive $1,500 per month in pension funds from your home country, and you must agree not to work in Bali. This costs just under $900 and $600 to extend each year.
The living costs are another critical thing to consider when moving anywhere. Will your grocery shop be more than you’re used to? How many square meters of the apartment can you get for your buck? And how much are you going to have to pay for Wifi that will support your Netflix habits?
There’s no shortage of accommodations in Bali, equipped for extended stays. From guest houses with unmatched monthly discounts to homely villas complete with a kitchen and indoor living space, if you are lucky. There are lodgings for all budgets, but you can expect to spend as little as $200 a month for a serviced room in a guest house with a private bathroom and shared kitchen, and up to $3,000 or more for the most luxury multi-bedroom villas.
The good thing about long-stay accommodation in Bali is that your bills and wifi will often be included in the price, and if not, they’ll at least be managed by your landlord. Additional water, electricity, and Wifi for the month if they’re not included in your rent shouldn’t exceed $20 per person on average, depending on the size of your accommodation. While you can get a monthly data package and sim for as little as $5 a month.
If you’re Wifi isn’t up to scratch at home, a popular thing for digital nomads to do is buy a membership to a co-working space where you’ll find a stronger internet connection, private working rooms, and a peaceful communal working atmosphere. These can cost as little as $20 a month and up to $200 for the best facilities. However, most cafes in Bali are well-equipped for remote working and free to use.
Groceries are one thing that can add up Bali, but they’re still likely to be cheaper than what you’ll find in any western supermarket, averaging at $75-100 per person. Where living costs in Bali really benefit ex-pats is when eating out, with restaurants meals costing far less than groceries. The average meal out at a mid-range restaurant will only cost around $6, whereas you can eat local food for as little as $1 a head.
Other costs like gym memberships and scooter rental will differ per person, but both gyms and spas average at the higher end of $50 a month, with bikes costing around the same. On average, you can expect to spend $700 to $3,000 living in Bali, but it’s easy to budget and can be as cheap as you want it to be.
Still, the average income in Bali is meager, and savings can whittle away quickly, so it’s best to make sure you have a solid external income before moving to Bali, ideally online. Relying on stable employment on the island as a foreigner is not a good idea. Most business owners will hire locals as their employees, and sometimes they’re legally obliged to. Even if you have a visa that permits you to work, it’s hard to land hospitality and civil servant jobs in Bali.
Many Westerners work in the fitness sector on the island as personal trainers and yoga instructors. Still, this is usually because they operate their own businesses from gyms or studios and pay the Indonesian business owner’s rent for the space. This market is also very saturated, so having a reliable source of income lined up before heading to the island is strongly advised.
There are strict laws around foreigners buying and building property in Bali. However, despite it being illegal, at face value, for an ex-pat to “own” land on the island, this is easily navigated, and Bali is actually a great place for foreigners to invest.
Instead of technically owning property, foreigners buy long-term leases to the land of 30-years or longer that they can extend up to 70 years or sell as they please. Foreigners can also set up a Foreign-Owned Company (or PT PMA) to get their Right to Build and Right to Use licenses. Still, this requires going into business with a local who needs to sponsor the company before being approved.
There are a few different housing licenses that make buying and building possible for ex-pats:
Right to Use (Hak Pakai) – As not all foreigners can own a business, this is the most common lease contract for ex-pats and the longest. This allows foreigners to lease land from the owner for up to 70 years to use as they wish, and their right to own goes over to you, meaning you can sublease it to others.
Right to Lease (Hak Sew) – This is another popular choice for ex-pats with slightly less long-term plans. The lease period under with license is up to 50 years and means you have a lease from the freeholder.
Right to Own (Hak Milik) – This freehold title is only available to Indonesian citizens, but foreign investors often use local Balinese nominees to acquire the Hak Milik for them. But this is a risky arrangement that can cause conflict. You can never guarantee that you won’t be double-crossed with the property legally belonging to someone else.
Right to Build (Hak Guna Bangunan) – If you want to build on land in Bali, an ex-pat can only obtain this right as a PT PMA business owner. As an owner, you instantly acquire the Right to Build and Use for 25 years which you can extend up to 80 years.
Remember, if you wish to sell on the remaining lease to your land, property, or business, the shorter the lease, the less desirable it will be. This is why many business investment models in Bali are focused on making back the investment and profit within the time frame of the lease.
5 Tips for How to Live in Bali Permanently
- Learn Bahasa – You’ll find it a lot easier to integrate into the community if you can speak the native language of Bali. Although virtually everyone speaks English, locals will be more welcoming, and communication will be more accessible if you know basic Bahasa. Learning the local dialect is also a sign of respect and shows that you acknowledge the culture and the people around you.
- Do your research – Ignorance is certainly not bliss. Knowing the rules and regulations of even your holiday locations is definitely advised to avoid getting into trouble. So if you’re making a permanent move overseas, don’t think that a lack of knowledge or the shrug of “I didn’t know” will get you out of altercations. The Polisi is ruthless in Bali and does their job properly, so never drive without a helmet or license. Also, make sure you pay vendors correctly, don’t excessively barter, and always respect the land, religious practices, and people.
- Get insurance – Foreigners aren’t covered under Indonesia’s healthcare system, even if you have a KITAS. In fact, having medical insurance is one of the requirements for a long-stay permit. While you can be treated, you’ll have to pay the hospital upfront at your own expense, but taking out international insurance with your original country of residence means you can be reimbursed.
- Line up work – Backpacking with savings is all well and good, but if you want to live long-term in Bali, as one of the most expensive Southeast Asian destinations, you’ll find your funds quickly dissipate. To settle in Bali, having working online is the best to support yourself, and there are no limits to the things you can do to make money from your laptop. That said, if you’re lucky enough to have a physical skill that Indonesia requires, make sure you have guaranteed employment before turning up in Bali.
- Put yourself out there – Relocating can be daunting. Leaving family and friends and moving to the other side of the world will never be easy, so make sure you push yourself to be open and interactive with the community. There are tons of ways to make new friends and meet like-minded individuals with the thriving community of ex-pats in Bali. But don’t be afraid to mingle with locals too and not limit your experience of living in this exotic paradise by only socializing with people you would be friends with at home.